USDA looks to organic supply welfare in new dairy study

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Agriculture

A study is underway is in the US to offer what researchers claim will be the most comprehensive insight yet into the impacts of organic farming on the health of livestock in attempts to ensure better practices for suppliers.

Professor Pamela Ruegg of the University of Wisconsin will head the research, which forms part of a US department of Agriculture (USDA) focus on wider organic production, to identify key areas related to cattle management and livestock health.

Ruegg says that the entire organic dairy industry is cooperating with the research, which is currently focused solely on farm level factors and not on the process side of the industry.

“The most important focus is to identify practices that help farmers optimise animal health and well being,” ​she states. “Control of mastitis, production of high quality milk and management practices that contribute to enhanced animal well being are all of interest to us.”

As part of its research remit, the USDA funded study reflects growing interest into how not using antibiotics and hormones may impact on the welfare of livestock.

Research targets

Ruegg said that over the next 18 months, the research team is expected to perform 300 visits to farms to study current production techniques. The researchers say they have already completed three farm visits in Wisconsin, with similar testing beginning across New York and Oregon in the coming weeks.

“We don't expect to influence legislation but do hope to be able to help address issues that many farmers care about,”​ states Ruegg.

Researchers on the report suggest that little previous study has been undertaken on cattle management and animal welfare currently.

Ruegg says that with US Organic standards related to production already in place, her team will look to determine general farmer practice in ensuring dairy animal health.

She adds that the USDA remained the sole backer for the study currently, but suggests other backers may possibly contribute in the future.

Related topics: R&D

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